Lights flash on a police car. (Photo: Shutterstock)
A California Court of Appeals has denied an attorney's request for attorney's fees of $ 308,000 for his first representation of a man's family, shot in 2016 by Los Angeles County sheriff department officials.
The second district appeals court upheld a court decision on Wednesday that granted Los Angeles lawyer Michael Traylor only $ 17,325 from the $ 7 million settlement, the lawyers who had taken the case from him, to settle claims for unlawful death and civil rights. The court found that Traylor had not given his files to the new lawyers and had submitted three separate time reports. When the decision was published, the court found that it wanted to emphasize that "simultaneous time records" are the best evidence of a lawyer's work.
"They are not essential, but they obscure other evidence," wrote Shepard Wiley Jr., second-district judge. "Lawyers know this better than anyone else." You might notice what they know. "
In the underlying case, John Sweeney of The Sweeney Firm and Steven Glickman of Glickman & Glickman, both in Beverly Hills, eventually took over the case for the family of Donta Taylor, who was shot in a car chase with two police officers in 2016. MPs claimed Taylor had a pistol but no weapon was found and the county finally agreed to pay $ 7 million in an agreement with Taylor's family in 2018.
Traylor, who had represented the family for a month after the shootout, filed a lien for the settlement. According to Wednesday's decision, Traylor Sweeney issued two bills in October this year, one for Taylor's father and one for his fiancee for working on the case in 2016, both of which had misspelled Donta Taylor's name. Traylor finally submitted three separate billing documents claiming that he had worked "130.0, 180.00 and 200.0 hours" on the case. The court described the numbers as "oddly round".
"Witnesses can be prone to prejudice when their own paychecks are at stake," wrote Wiley, who joined judges Elizabeth Grimes and Maria Stratton. “And every lawyer who has time sheets knows that delays in recording affect accuracy. If you are a month late, it is difficult to reconstruct a past day at six-minute intervals. Now increase the delay to two years. Carry out this thought experiment: What did you do today every six minutes two years ago? These two risks exacerbate each other: unless you have kept detailed, simultaneous records using a reliable method, general experience will cause observers to view your late and selfish, six-minute claims as largely fictional. "
"That's why wise lawyers keep accurate time records," Wiley concluded.
Traylor, who was emailed on Thursday, said he intends to file a repeat request. Traylor said that this was not an hourly billing case and that the precedent in California allowed reasonable estimates in cases of contingent fees and that Sweeney and Glickman had provided different estimates of their time in this case as well.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Glickman said he agreed that unforeseen lawyers should be compensated for their overall contributions to the success of a case. However, Traylor did not provide files of interviews with witnesses or "anything essential" to support his work on the case.
Glickman said Traylor deserved compensation for helping the family find its way through an incredibly difficult time, but it was difficult to justify the legal fees for a substantive work "if he never handed over one of his work products ".